Thursday, July 31, 2008

Suffering Part III, Life with Christ

Conversion Diary's Jennifer F. sent me over to a site where a non-religious (Jennifer likes to use the term "secular") woman is dealing with the grief of miscarriage. Reading her posts touched my heart. Please join me in offering some prayers for this grieving mother.

I wanted to say that I'm so, so profoundly grateful that I had become a full fledged Catholic before my miscarriage. That event made it so clear to me why it matters that I'm a now Catholic, instead of remaining a vaguely happy Christian following Jesus on my own.

The Catholic church has clear rules, and those rules act as safeguards when you are in trouble.

When I walked into that ultrasound room . . . when the nurse practitioner told me that my baby no longer had a heart beat, that same baby whose teeny finger tips I could now make out on the monitor . . . Boy, was I in trouble.

I need gentleness. I needed the support of a real, sacramental of marriage. I needed to be married to the baby's father. I needed to know in my bones that my husband missed being a father just as much as I missed being this lost baby's mother.

I needed the gracious support of my beloved Parish priest. The same celibate guy who sat in the confessional and helped me discern when to open myself up to conceive this baby, who forgave me when the stress of pregnancy caused me to yell at my older children, who included my littlest guy during the blessing of my children by making an extra sign of the cross over my non-bulging tummy.

This beloved Father helped me plan the baby's funeral. He hard my confession and absolved me of all my fears that I'd accidentally hurt my baby. (Should I have double checked with the pharmacist to insure the antibiotic I took for an earache really was safe to take while pregnant? and so forth). I knew in my head that no one was to blame for the miscarriage, of course. I still needed to hear the words out loud to soothe my heart.

I needed Catholic friends who treated this miscarriage as the loss of a real baby.

At the same time, I needed some strict discipline.

The Sunday after my miscarriage, I couldn't face going to church. We had to take the bus. My husband had done all the heavy lifting to get a 2 year old, a 1 year old and myself dressed in church clothes and waiting at our bus stop in time for 10 AM Mass. The bus was late.

I walked a few feet away from my family. I ignored my good church dress and laid down in the grass. "I can not bear to go to church right now!" I said.

"Are you feeling badly. I can take the kids alone to church, or go another time, if you don't feel well enough for Mass," my husband said with anxiety.

"No, I'm physically fine. It's a mental thing. I just can not bear to go to Mass. Last week we were all there together. I rubbed my tummy and felt so happy. We got chocolate milk shakes after church. I felt so excited to be buying three kid size milkshakes on Sundays in a few months." I spit out the words. I felt crummy.

"You can stay home. I'm sure it's alright," he said.

"No it's a sin. A big one. If I'm not really sick then I have to go to Mass." I pulled myself up, with so much disgust at the Catholic church. I really wished that I was Protestant again. I wished I got to skip church whenever I wanted to.

That gift of knowing "mortal sin" saved me. Because if I hadn't gone to church on that terrible Sunday after the miscarriage. That Sunday when I was so mad at God, so mad at all the pregnant mothers at the swimming pool who blithely commented about "life with this baby" without realizing that in a second this whole baby gift can suddenly disappear while a dead body still floats in your uterus, and so overwhelmed with the thought of returning to the church its happy stain-glass windows of Mary cradling the newborn Jesus, I don't know when I would have ever returned. It could have been a week. But it probably would have been much, much longer.

My mother was a Sunday School administrator once at our Protestant church. I remember her telling another teacher that it was such a lovely thing to sign up Sandra at last to teach 5th grade. My mom said "Sandra says she hasn't been to church for 2 years since her father died. Having her teach Sunday School will be such a beautiful way to get her back into the church. At least she'll be in the same building!"

As Catholics, we don't have the option of hanging out in the Sunday School classroom while we manage our grief. We don't get to take a break and arrange our face before we meet God.

Each Sunday, we are required to be in a pew at Mass. And that is not a pain-in-the-neck requirement. That is a grace.

Because it is when we are bleeding, it's when we are in pain and angry and lost, it's the times when we so don't want to be in a Church--those are the times that God has the most to say to us.

That Sunday that I didn't want to go to Church, I realized that it was because I couldn't bare for my life to go on as normal. I couldn't bare for my church to seem to forget my son. I didn't know yet that death is talked about each and every Sunday.

I walked into my church feeling so bitter and closed up. "I'm only here because you are making me!" I thought. Then I found this little King figure that Alex had left in our pew the week before. The doll had sat there undisturbed through a week's worth of Masses. The doll was about 4 inches long and had a crown on it's head. It was the same size as my dead son's body. I picked it up, and squeezed it in my hand all during Mass.

The stain-glass window that lay behind my regular pew turned out to be Our Blessed Mother holding her Jesus as he came off the cross. I scooted down to be in the blue shadow from that window. "Mary lost a son," I thought. "She knows how I feel."

I cried openly all through that Mass. I cried at the Holy Scripture reading. I cried when we had to shake hands with a family of three. "Oldest girl and 2 younger brothers. That's what we were supposed to have," I thought at the passing of the peace. I cried during communion.

I didn't get the sense while I was in church, squeezing my little King doll and wishing that I Francisco's body was back in my womb, that my burden was easier as a Catholic mom. Now I do.

Catholicism has hard rules. And when the way is blurred with tears ---the church makes sure that your grief doesn't harden your heart and lead to sin. The Church make sure that you are face to face with God on Sunday. The church insures that you don't short-cut your ethics in exchange for preventing the conception of another child and thus spare yourself ever feeling this intense pain again.

The church is our Mother. She can't prevent all of our pain from the Great Fall. She does care, however. She bandages our wounds and showers us with "feel better soon" kisses. I love our Blessed Mother. I love our Mother Church.

Let's pray that all those in mourning soon feel comfort. Let's also pray everyone makes it home to feel our Mother's love.


Summer TIME and the living is easy....

Except that tomorrow August begins. That means that my Letter of Intent is due to my Local Elementary School. That would be the simple piece of paper where I out myself as mother doing irreparable damage to her five year old
by stifeling her independence,
delaying her socialization,
condemning her to a lifetime of illiteracy,
and ruining her health by denying her the chickenpox vaccine.

Yeah. In June this home-schooling course seemed so reasonable. I know the educational theory behind this decision. I've had a blast teaching my kid without a curriculum for two years. This summer has been all fun in the sun. We've even scored big at the 29 cent school supply sales at Target.

Yet tomorrow, the ax falls. I start talking to our local school. I meet the people who will be conducting my kid's portfolio review. Because that's how nuts, I am. I don't choose the safe, Mother Seton approach where I order a shiny box of materials and get to check off "option b". No, my mavereck husband and I have chosen the "unschooling" route as the best fit for our family. As my brave husband said "you can either have your stress in daily doses as you force our kinetic daughter to sit still long enough to finish those workbook, or you can save up all your stress for the two portfolio review meetings with a nameless buerucatic who has the power to send you kid to public school." I choose option B with the explicit provision that Jon take off work on those review dates so I don't have to go alone.

While I'm not excited about whole the portfolio review, I know that we'll survive. The thing that freaks me out the most is this huge "weirdness" factor. My parents were very into "not sticking out." We were supposed to be quiet as kids. We were supposed to get good grades and follow our teachers instructions. We were supposed to "not cause trouble."

So now whenever I'm outside the herd, I start to get nervous. Am I doing the right thing? Do I know what I'm doing? What is this whole "trust your kid, trust yourself" thing?

The thing I keep resting on, is that this whole thing is so NOT my idea. My idea would involve to be shopping for cute Lands' End lunch boxes right now and scoping out school bus routes. I went to public school. My husband went public school. Everyone we've ever known prior to age 32, all went to public or Catholic school.

The thing about being Catholic, however, is that it is supposed to open you up to the power of living life differently than you once imagined. We're supposed to let God reshape us in his image just as a potter reshapes clay into a perfect pot.

It's Summertime and living is hard! I'm being reshaped into something different to better serve my Lord. Many praises that he didn't leave me as a broken pot!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Creating Order

I'm sort of naturally order-impaired. I tooted that being "messy" was a virtue until I married my husband. Initially, the fact that he adores to steam-clean carpets was a major plus.

That's actually how I calmed myself down one night. After I had dated Jon for five months, I had a panic attack outside the law school library while studying for finals. "This thing is getting way to serious," I thought. I paced back and forth and considered the fearful possibility that he was actually willing to follow me down to my new job in rural Ohio, which also meant that we'd soon be--"gasp" getting engaged.

I tried to calm down my heart, which felt so not ready for the "M" word. "Maybe it will be okay," I thought. "Maybe he will actually be a decent husband." I couldn't even picture that as a possibility, until that image of Jon happily steam-cleaning his apartment carpets came to mind. "He likes to clean. It could actually be nice to be married to a guy who likes to clean carpet."

I can't really describe how a boy cleaning carpet got me over my whole commitment hurdle. Somehow, it was short hand for the fact that I wouldn't be angry and resentful and holding all the housework. I'd gotten terrible scared reading Arlie Hothchild's "The Second Shift" as a freshman and never really got over it.

So I married a neatnik. A boy who liked to clean. For the first year of our marriage we had the must stupid fights. My husband would get overwhelmed with my disorder and kindly clean our entire house. All of my various papers would end up in a giant pile on my desk chair. "I need one place in the house to dump all my things," I'd shout. (This is before the daily Eucharist did wonders on my naturally red hot temper). "I need one place that can be messy. I need one place that's mine!"

"But if it's messy, it bothers me," my husband would say back.

We must have repeated this exact script about 700 times during my pregnancy with Hannah. I didn't like my husband "living" in my house. He didn't like how I lived. Then suddenly, something happened to me. I found that I enjoyed living in an orderly environment. All those benefits of being "messy", being creative, free, inspired, they all could happen in a house where I knew where the tape was kept and where the laundry was to be folded. In fact, having at the ready, along with scissors and crepe paper, often helped creative ideas come to fruition.

So gradually, I figured out how to embrace order. My husband cleaned our house. He mopped with Hannah on his back. He cooked and did the dishes. My sole housekeeping task was keeping up with the laundry.

Then my husband happened to stop working as a graphic designer in our home. He got a "real" job. A job with real hours and fixed demands. He moved to a place with a high allergy count. He started coming home exhausted and sick.

For the first six months, I waited valiantly for the "boy who loves to steam-clean" to come back. My husband still is the only one who cleans our carpets, but the regular, daily tasks of cleaning up toys or loading the dishwasher. These "husband" tasks went undone day after day. I stayed home alone with a 2 year old and a 1 year old. Mess was coming out of our ears.

Somewhere back in 2006, I broke that mental block of insisting that homework was 50-50 deal between husband and wife. It helped that Jon had basically made the housework 90 percent him and 10 percent me during early years of marriage. He felt terrible about being to tired from work and allergies to help me during weekdays. "It's okay!" I said. "You had your time as the cleaning stay-at-home Dad, now it's my turn."

Right now our housework is about 90 percent me and 10 percent him. I don't even have a tally anymore. I sort of think as the whole house as my "job". He cheerfully "helps out" either when we are massively behind before a play-date or on the weekend. This "non-equal" partnership which I dreaded for so long, actually works out very smoothly.

I say that because feminism had really distorted my viewpoint on housework, stay-at-home mothering, and the family structure in general. I truly thought that living the 1950s life was so oppressive. Now that I've tried all different ways and found the old one works best, I'm so over that. The best thing I can say about working outside the home, is worked, my husband and I don't have fights about who's day was worse. I know the horrors that came happen at work. He knows the chaos that can come from young children. At the end of a work-life or home-life story at dinner we'll both say "I don't know how you survived today, how can I help?"

I'm in the midst of trying to errect some boundaries between my parents and me. It's painful work. Everything seems so messy and chaotic right now. It helps to view these things a not a "sin" per se, but rather a system of disorder. After the fall, things are naturally disordered. Our task as Catholics is to create order. Just like learning how to pick up toys behind 2 toddlers, this healthy relationship thing is another skill that I can master. It just takes practice. It just takes love and the sacraments. It just takes the support of a spouse who loves to steam-clean!

Food Update

We'll I've got a milkman. His name is Will! Each Thursday he brings me six half gallon glass bottles from cows that graze about 30 minutes from my house. Hannah and Alex say the milk from "happy cows" taste better and I have to agree. Milk and eggs cost less than the grocery store. There's only a 3.50 delivery fee for the whole order. I feel like a princess with her own creamery. This part is staying in the grocery budget.

The shipped veggies are also interesting. Each Wednesday we get a box of organic fruits and veggies. There's a wild assortment of stuff, eggplants, apricots and this wild leafy thing called "Swiss Chard." I taught myself how to make collard greens, which my 5 year old adored. Tonight's salad is made out of carrots and dandelion leaves. At $46 this box feels sort of pricey to me. That's half my grocery budget and I'm not really sure that the amount I buy is really enough to feed 5 people for a week. My husband, however, is in heaven and has begged me to continue. I'm continuing it for a few more weeks and treating it as an adventure in learning how to cook. Who knew that dandelions were so good for you?

Feast of Martha

John 11: 19 - 27
19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.
20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary sat in the house.
21 Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
22 And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you."
23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
24 Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
26 and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
27 She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world."

Yesterday was the Feast of Martha. I'm used to the Scripture where Martha is chastised by Jesus for whining about her sister's non-involvement in dinner prep. (As the oldest, I can so relate!) It came as such a beautiful shock to hear this reading at Mass.

Martha is the one who rushes to met Jesus outside the house. Martha is the one who turns to Jesus in faith in the midst of sorrow. Martha is the human being who provoked one of the most glorious summary's of faith in our entire Scripture. "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me though he die, yet shall he live."

How many funerals have I heard that Bible verse? It is all thanks to Martha.

Saint Martha, bless me as a hurry among my many tasks as a homemaker today. Help me to imitate your friendship with Jesus. Help me to run to greet my Lord in the middle of all of my troubles.

Chesterton Quotes

From "Why I'm a Catholic"

The difficulty of explaining "why I am a Catholic" is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason; that Catholicism is true.

I could fill all my space with separate sentences each beginning with the words, "it is the only thing that. . ." As, for instance,....

3. It is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child to his age.

4. It is the only thing that talks as if it were teh truth; as if it were a real messenger refusing to tamper with a real message. ..

6. It is the only large attempt to change the world from the inside; working through wills and not laws; and so on.

Hat Tip: Joshie and Maria for beginning me to read this genius for so long!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Protection of Poverty

On the way home from Mass this morning, Jon started telling me about the latest "Blood Diamond" like-conflict in Africa. There's a rare metal used in Play Station 3. Rebel groups in the Congo have kidnapped children to work in the metal mines. The situation is so bad it's called the "Play Station 3 Wars."

Jon brought this up to point out how difficult it is as American consumers not to get sucked into supporting evil. A few years ago, a diamond engagement ring could get you sucked into inadvertantly supporting African conflict. Now it's a Play Station 3 for your kids. "You never know what your purchase is supporting," he said.

I started talking to him about how weirdly evil is all linked together. I could have probably figured out that Play Station 3 was not the greatest buy for my kid's health or might contribute to them being "spoiled." I would not have figured out that a Christmas purchase that emptied out our budget would also empty entire villages of fathers, mothers and children.

Then I realized what a grace it was to not have the money to buy Play Station 3.

As a former Protestant and former poverty law attorney, I'm used to thinking of poverty as oppressive. It hurts me to run out of groceries before pay day. It hurts me to not have $95 to send Hannah to Catholic bible school. It hurts to see my pretty girl wear her one and only pair of scrappy pink-heart shoes from Target.

Two weeks ago, I cried because the $300 in savings I transfered to our checking account to cover the cost of Jon's cavity went instead to an emergency trip to see his sick father. There's no additional $300 in our savings account. My husband has a hurt tooth and no dental insurance. I started crying because living without dental insurance or the money to keep up with bi-annual teeth cleanings was not something I ever contemplated as a kid, as a college student, or as a young mother. "Poor in spirit" meant something figurative, not something literal.

Now, as I still storm heaven for the prayers of St. Efagenia for my husband's hurt tooth, I'm starting to see poverty as a form of protection. There are things that I should do for my family spiritually, that I just wouldn't do unless my back was against the wall. If I had thousands of extra dollars for private school tuition, would I have explored the beautiful option of home-schooling? Would I have figured out how to self-soothe during emotional bouts of pain if I always had money for movie tickets?

I'd like to say that I'd be a self-actualized woman who'd research all the potential harms of buying a Play Station 3, that I'd enforce sensible video game limits with my son, and turn that purchase (if made at all) into something incredibly positive for my Faith and my family. The Play Station might be a magnet for the all the troubled kids in the neighborhood, or a father-son bonding activity, or something else equally as grand. The truth is that, I'm not that type of Mom. I'm little. I'm weak. I'm lazy.

That's why God send me the blessings of poverty. Poverty keeps me out of trouble.

Don't Miss

Maria's post on how to help our government adopt protection for Catholic pharmacists who wish to avoid the sin of aiding abortion. Maria's husband, Andrew, is high up in the chain of command at Health and Human Services Department. With a few easy steps you can do a lot to help insure these protective regulations are adopted.

Thanks for your sacrificing your Daddy dinner time Maria, Paul, Lucy and Jane!

h/t" Ordinary time

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wrestling with the Fourth Commandment

I remember attending a Lenten retreat with a visiting priest several years ago who said "you've got to reflect honestly before confession and not go in on automatic pilot. One of the worst things for me to hear is a ninety year old woman saying 'Father forgive me, I dishonored my father and my mother...."

At this point, I blanched in the front row. The priest met my eyes and continued, "you know, because that means her confession is all routine. I dishonored my Father and my Mother, I stole a penny from my Mother's purse, it's all stuff from her first confession at age 8."

I couldn't explain it to a priest eight years ago, but I'm fully convinced I'm going to be one of those ninety year olds who confesses "Father forgive me, I dishonored my father and my mother." That's a sin I can stumble upon even when my parents are dead. Because, I mess up on this one all the time.

My parents and I have had some epic battles during my childhood. Usually, they were not battles that my peers experienced. Mom was totally cool the day I called her from play practice and asked for an emergency lift because my male ride was high. "You should good judgment," she told me when she picked me up.

Meanwhile, my Senior year I got grounded for three weeks from driving the Family car for turning in an English paper late. To increase the punishment, my mom wouldn't let me get rides to cross-country practice. For weeks, I had to bike 2 miles home after 15-20 miles of "conditional" runs. "Look at Abby's cross-training dedication!" my coach called out after watching me get on my 10 speed after practice. "I wish you would all bike home after our runs." "You have no idea how non-voluntary this is!" I thought as my cramped legs attempted to give out on the painful ride home.

The whole time I sat in RICA, I wondered "how are my parents going to take this conversion of Faith?" Is it going to be easy breezy lemon squeezy, or is it going to be a daily showdown?

In the beginning, things were easy. My parents came to my Easter Vigil Confirmation. But somehow, I think they didn't really think the whole Roman Catholic thing would "take." It was after I started to "change" that things got hard.

In my early conversion, things were much more tense and ugly. We had some big disagreements over going to Sunday Mass when I visited them, having their grandkids close together, my decision to quit my job and become a stay-at-home mother. These differences were painful and awful. I remember coming home after one Christmas visit. I had just turned 30 and Alex was 2 months old. My 30th birthday party at my parents home was so awful, I just laid in a black puddle back home in Madison for a full 2 weeks after our visit. "I have got to get myself a therapist," I thought. I did, and therapy helped.

The thing I realize now, is that while the show down over my Sunday Mass obligation Alex's conception were awful, they were also clear. I knew that no matter what my parents said, I had to go to Sunday Mass. I needed to make that point with charity. (My latest solution is to let Mom pick if she wants my family to go to Saturday vigil or Sunday Morning Mass during my visits with her.) Still, at the end of the day, complying with my parent's wishes by not going to Mass was not an option.

I've made the stand about NFP and Mass and not eating meat on Good Friday. Now the subjects of our inter-generational tensions are not spelled out clearly in the catecism. The duties between what I owe God and the deference I owe my parents are in this murky gray area.

For example, my mom is in town to attend her high school reunion. My sister says "Let's take her out to see Momma Mia." I'm totally silent on the phone and I have no idea what to say. When my sister took my mom to see Momma Mia on Broadway, I thought the play was a light-hearted wedding farce with Abba Songs. Then I just read a review and found out the bride "might" have one of 3 fathers. As a writer, I'm putting myself through a strict "out with morally objectionable art" fast. Do I say anything? Do I just go, so that I can have a good time with my Mom? Do I suggest another movie without saying anything about my weird Catholic beliefs about what makes good art?

I used to wish so much that my parents and I belonged to one of those happy, always Catholic Italian families. Then our squabbles would be about how much pepper to put in the spaghetti sauce. There wouldn't be this inherent tension over God in the middle.

Now, I don't know. I know that having parents who disagree fundamentally with the Catholic church (they are called Protestants for a reason!) does not give me a free pass on the 4th Commandment. I know that being the black sheep in the family makes me much more sensitive about the difference between my personal preferences and the actual requirements of my new Faith.

So I'm stuck in the middle. I'm trying to parse out how to serve God and how to honor the ones who co-operated with God to give me life. I make lots of trips to confessional as I fail to make this distinction.

Lately, I've just thrown the whole thing up to Saint Bernadette. You'll remember that Saint Bernadette's parents forbid her to go to the grotto. But Our Lady expressly wished her to make several visits. What does Saint Bernadette do when her mother says "promise me that you'll never go back to the grotto?" Saint Bernadette responds: "I promise you that I'll never go back without your permission." She found a way to reconcile her duty to Our Blessed Mother and her duty to her mother on earth.

This week, I didn't worry about the Momma Mia problem. I prayed instead. Every time I found myself slipping into "what is Mom going to say when she hears about my crazy movie fast...?" I just said a prayer to St. Bernadette instead.

She came through! Turns out that my little brother took my Mom to this movie she's talked about for ages before she even made the trip to D.C. to visit her two daughters. For today, no conflicts. I made my Sunday dinner plans with my parents for 11 PM on Sunday. No conflicts tomorrow, either.

Thanks be for the Saints. Thanks be for the confessional. And Father, I'm trying my best to get rid of this old 4th commandment problem in my 30s instead of in my 90s!

Friday, July 25, 2008

My Saint In Training

Okay, so Alexander and I are having some challenges this summer. At 3 1/2 he's not a little baby, but he's not yet a "big kid". We're having the epic struggle over the milestone that starts with a P and ends with a Y. He can swim on his on, but insists on being carried home from the pool. Most day's Alex is decent at Daily Mass. Yesterday, he surprised me by start a game of chase up and down the entire length of the church. (You know you're a Catholic when you think "Alex, just kneel at the Tabernacle as you race past and I'll forgive you from making this gigantic spectacle during this quiet moment of Pre-Mass prayer.) Alex didn't remember to kneel at the Tabernacle during our impromptu game of tag. However, there is hope for the boy because.....

Today, we had two boys over to play at our house. The 4 year old and 2 year old could not stop playing with the Mac Truck (from the Disney Car movie). As they were leaving, both boys started crying loudly for more time with Mac!!!!

Hannah said, "go ahead and borrow Mac."

"Oh Wait!" I said. I meet the eyes of the mother. "I'm so sorry, but you'll have to ask Alex. It's his favorite thing to sleep with each night & I'm just worried he won't really realize it's gone, gone and so tonight we'll have a giant cry feast."

"I totally understand," this level headed Mom said. "When you let your favorite toys go, it's just heartache on both sides."

At this point, as the Mom starts to physically detangle Mac from the vice-grip of her sons, Alex walks up and says "you can have Mac."

"Oh no, Alex, he's yours. My boys will be find," the Mom said.

"Take him home, the boys like him." Alex says.

At this point the frantic eyes of both Mom's meet again.
"It's okay. I'll take Mac now, but I'll leave him here," the experienced Mom answers.

So visiting Mom exits with 2 crying boys. After we walk them to the car and wave goodbye, we come back inside.

"I gave them Mac" Alex starts saying to himself.
"What are you talking about?" Hannah asks.
"They were crying so I let them borrow my Mac?"
"What are you about brother?" Hannah asks. She's pointing to the brilliant red truck sitting on our kitchen counter.

Alex looks at the truck. Thinks for a moment, then he explodes into tears.

"What is wrong?" I ask.
"I wanted to share, but those boys didn't take Mac! Why didn't like my Mac, Mom?"
At this point, I'm stumped. (I do not have visiting Mom's calmness or clarity of mind. "Should I go chase after them to give them Mac?" I ask.
"Yes," he said.

So I go to get my shoes out of the closet and think, where can I stash Mac until tonight. In the shoe closet?
Hannah sees me by the door, "were they already gone, Mom?"
'Um," I start to think of a lie, but can't. I look at Alex who's about to get overswept by tears again."
Do you really want me give this to them."

So out I go, into our apartment parking lot. Our visitors are still there. I come out holding a Mac truck. The visiting Mom starts to wave me away.
"They've already stopped crying, they are fine."
I shook my head. "You don't understand. My son is crying now. He really, really wants your boys to borrow it."
"We'll take good care of it, " and the visiting Mom holds this little piece of plastic with gingerly with both hands.
"Don't worry about it," I shrug. "Whatever happens we'll be fine. I just can't believe he's so willing to part with it."
"You are doing something right," she nods as she rolls up her window.

I had that whole walk back to the apartment to think. It's a short, short walk. Yet it felt long. My little guy. He's growing up. He might be racing around the tabernacle in the morning. Yet Jesus is still getting into that little heart and making it grow.

Thank you Alex for showing me the meaning of true charity. I love you!

Making Sense of Suffering, Part II

"And the trouble I find is that the trouble finds me
It's a part of my mind it begins with a dream
And a feeling I get when I look and I see
That this world is a puzzle, I'll find all of the pieces
And put it all together, and then I'll rearrange it
I'll follow it forever
Always be as strange as it seems"

Talk of the Town, Jack Johnson, Curious George Lyrics

So I wrote earlier about feeling the post-miscarriage blues this week. I offered it up. I ground my teeth and tried to make it through.

I struggled hard to get all three kids in their car seats on Wednesday, with treats and sippy cups in hand, and drove across D.C. to catch a free kids movie with some friends from my rosary group. In the middle of Curious George, this incredible song hits my soul. I quoted it above. Go take a moment and listen to it on You Tube. (Sorry my You Tube posting blog button isn't working today."

I just heard the line "And the trouble I find is that trouble finds me," and somehow the whole suffering thing made sense. I don't get the whys of the miscarriage thing. I'm just a part of this glorious mystery that is God. And for that I'm so thankful. I'm a kid hanging out on my bunch of balloons, going through crazy mishaps, but somehow they fit together. This mystery of faith. It's incredible. That's all I can say "I'll follow it forever." I'm not saying it well, because how can you translate your intangible feelings on the page?

I just know that I was super sad, ten minutes before. Everything seemed wrong and misfitting. We were late. I ran out of gas money and had to use my Dad's credit card. I had no idea where this movie theater was. I had my arms full of cranky kids and a broken down umbrella stroller.

Then inside the movie theater, everything flipped around. I found my friend Maria's shiny face. . .She welcomed us in and handed out extra booster seats. . . There was room for us next to my friend Susan and her two kids. . . We all sat down. . . The baby happily munched her peanut butter crackers and let me watch the movie. . . Then there was this beautiful song. It came when George is sailing over NYC City with a bunch of balloons.

I heard that song, and I hugged baby Maria, and suddenly everything just seemed, um, ... healed.


Today, I messed around with Jack Johnson songs on You Tube. I found this incredible fact. Curious George was written by two German Jews who fled the Holocaust with this children's book manuscript and the clothes on their back. Curious George is an incredible pro-life story inspired by a boy with Down Syndrome.

Here's the story taken from a Down Blogger (check hat tip below for link info):

"As stated in an interview, the book Curious George Takes a Job was inspired by a true story. A boy, whose name is not known today, was born in Hamburg in 1909 with Down's Syndrome. He was institutionalized by his parents, condemned to a life at the facility.

When the boy was 15, he escaped from the institution and fled into the city streets. Hungry and in search of food, he found the briefly unattended kitchen of a restaurant, where a cook found him playing with the food and eating it. The cook, intrigued, put him to work to clean dishes, and took him home that evening. Within the following days, the cook arranged with a friend to have the boy wash windows at an office building.

The boy's work went well at first. But in one office, he found colored paints. He used them to paint a mural on the wall of the office. The tenant returned to his office after a lunch break to find the boy busy painting, and he started to chase after him. The boy jumped out a third-story window, breaking some bones.

The story made local headlines. After several weeks of hospitalization, the boy was formally adopted by the cook, and he later became the star of an amateur movie. He was recognized in the coming years as a talented artist. Some of his artwork was sold by the renowned bookseller, A.S.W. Rosenbach.

Tragically, his identity, art, and other details of his life were lost in the ravages of World War II, and he is believed to have been put to death by the government of Nazi Germany."

Can you believe that? That little boy who inspired Curious George was killed in the Holocaust? Doesn't that make you want to cry? I took my kids and immediately started praying to Jesus. Suffering? The murder of the disabled in Natzi Germany? The murder of Down Syndrome babies in our country after fetal testing? It's too much suffering. It's too sad.

Yet, life of the disabled and the life of my teeny, tiny son Francisco are so beautiful. We are all so seriously blessed in this life. Even with all the mishaps, even with all the sadness, God sends us so many beautiful balloons. Maybe it will be the smile of a friend who saved you a seat in a movie theater, even when she knew you probably felt to miserable to drive anywhere. Maybe it's a story about a precious little boy who makes dinosaur skeletons tumble down and cheerfully reminds me that my own "curious" son is nothing but fun.

Go hug your kids extra tight today.

Hang on to the balloons God sends you and go for a ride.

Thank you God for Life!

Hat Tip: Down Blogger

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Another Advantage of Daily Mass

Confession is a snap at 6:30 AM Mass. At least 3 times a week, sometimes more, our presiding priest heads over to the confessional after Mass. There is barely a line. Any time, Jon or I feel the least bit off our Catholic game we can nip into confessional in the morning.

On Tuesday morning we stopped by after feeling a little wretched after the green envy incident. Father Avelino gave me two great pieces of advice.

First, "We receive the Lord on our tongues. Therefore the Tempter will always try to make that place unworthy by tripping us into gossip and uncharitable speech. We must always be on guard for that. We must always make our tongues a suitable throne for the Lord."

Ahh, don't you just love that image?

Second, "why waste your time in envy. Think of your gifts and your blessings. In Faith, we are all spiritual millionaires!

Spiritual millionaires. That phrase also stayed with me all day. I feel like a rich girl when I consider that I've got the opportunity to hit Mass with my entire family each day, I've got lovely priests who are eager to clean off my soul whenever it gets the least speck of dirt. I feel rich when I hit the free kid movies with my rosary group girls and then get to discuss theology over raspberry tea at in impromptu Lunch.
I may spend my mornings working hard as a laundress, but I'm also a Lady who Lunches with the Catholic Saints for breakfast and aspiring Saints at noon. For that I'm so grateful!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Making Sense of Suffering

Today is day three of a light, but lingering depression. It's anniversary grief. Saturday I felt this weird, phantom pain. Jon took the kids out for a massive three hour swim. When I was home alone with the baby, I suddently felt so odd. It's like I wasn't sad, but my body held the memory of sadness. I couldn't figure out what was going on. I finally looked up Francisco's file in our file cabinet. July 19th was his funeral.

I had totally forgotten. I knew we had passed the miscarriage date in the flurry of our trip to Vermont to visit Jon's hospitalized father. I thought I was sort of past it this year. I didn't remember the actual date of his funeral. It was so strange. It was like my body remembered. My body remembered this feeling of intense, physical sadness on this date and threw me back there, even when my conscious mind was somewhere else.

So July 19, 2008 marks two years since my son's funeral. Right after it happened, things were so intense. Each morning I would wake up and the first thought was "I'm not pregnant anymore." My first thought, before I even registered that it was morning or that we had moved into a new apartment or even that my husband was sleeping next to me. My first thing each morning was this loud shouting sentance "I am not pregnant!" I would just realize that my stomach was fine and my muscles weren't sore and the whole host of physical sensations that are so annoying when you are pregnant were missing. Feeling back to normal was my punch in the gut. My grieving thing would start all over again.

I spent most of July 2006 not wanting to get out of bed. Jon would go to work and leave me alone with a 3 year old and 1 year old. Hannah would just pull on my hand, "Mom get up. Get up. I need you." I felt this weight of sadness that was like a physical presence hovering three inches over my bed. I'd snake my body under it, not being able to sit up like a normal human being. I'd have to snake out of the bed, get on my knees and crawl to wherever she needed me. I'd make her a peanut butter and banana sandwich or find a misplaced toy. Then I'd crawl back into bed.

It was such a weird feeling. I loved Hannah and Alex with so much intensity after losing my third child. At the same time, I was so numb with this raw 'missing something" feeling, I could barely concetrate on fufilling their most basic needs.

Last year, at the one year marker, I had a shiny, six week old newborn. The rawness of that anniversary grief of my miscarriage hit me with such a surprise intensity. My whole pregnancy with Maria I was totally convinced there was a real possibility that we would not be taking her home. My c-section doctor said "It's almost baby time!" as he made the inciscion. I immediately mentally added "If God wills. If He takes her, that's alright!" Both Jon and I really thought it was a possiblity to leave the OR without holding a live baby.

The mental image that got me through my fear a picture of newborn baby in her Winnie the Pooh carrier next to Francisco's grave. If Maria is safely born by mid-July, that first anniversary isn't going to be that hard. I'll just miss knowing my son. I won't worry that my body will continue to fail me for all future babies, in addition.

So it was a complete surprise, when I suddenly start throwing up with grief before July 4, 2007. The Fourth of July used to be my favorite holiday. It was a big Rupp family celebration at my grandparent's Lake House. I loved the colors. I loved marching in the funny parades. I loved sailboats and silly patriotic deserts and endless recitations of lines from the Declaration of Independence.

Suddenly, I sat in the middle of the capital of the United States and I hated everything. Everything made me cry. Everything made me throw up.

On July 4, 2006, my family had a beautiful day. We went to the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival. I sat in the sunshine on the National Mall. I rubbed my big, 4 month belly while I watched my older kids ride the same Carousal I rode as a kid. "Everything is going to be okay," I thought optimistically. We'd been through some rough water. But now we had a new start. My husband had a new job. We were finally living in our own apartment (after 4 months of living with relatives.) I rubbed my belly and gave thanks. "Thanks for bringing us home!"

July 9, 2006, was a Sunday. Jon and I had an unbelievable Sabbath. We were on fire. We felt so incredible. We were planning on how to bring cellphones to the Congo, and decided that this feeling must be proof that we were one to this micro-finance task that was supremely blessed by God.

The next day, I went for a routine ob appointment. The doctor couldn't find a heart beat. She wasn't worried and I wasn't either. Fifteen minutes later, I had an ultrasound. The baby had died the day before. Jon and I had felt so incredible during the Sabbath, not because of anything we had done, but because one of our children had entered heaven.

This year, I had thought I'd already skipped over the "hard" dates of 4th of July, of the ob appointment and of the miscarriage itself. But my body remembered. My body remembered carrying him and my body remembered the grief of suddnely not carrying him.

This year, I'm not bowed down by sadness (or the hormones of carrying for a newborn). This year, I'm going to sit a little more quietly with my sadness. I'm offering it up for a woman who is sad after having an abortion. This pain of lost children hurts all women. Even if you kid dies incredibly young. Even if you won't admit to yourself that your fetus had a name.


Sunday we made new friends on our parish playground. Jon met a Mom with a 6 year old girl, a 4 year old boy and 2 1/2 year old. When the mom heard we were fellow daily Mass Goers and homeschoolers, we were quickly pressed into a visit. We ended up staying there for five hours! The visit was lovely in every way, except a case of green envy.

On Monday, Alex and Hannah kept pining for an immediate return visit. I quized Alex, and he didn't even remember the boys names! What did that matter, when they had the entire Fisher Price remote control rail road set in their super duper play room? (Hannah fell in love with the trunk full of real Disney princess dresses). As for me, I felt vague dissatisfied with our lack of a triple decker fruit basket . I also spent most of the day wishing I had been a cradle Catholic who always knew that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mother and therefore avoided burdening my husband with $92,000 of useless student loan debt.

And my husband . . . all Monday night he kept muttering about the state of our carpets. "We can't have them over here until I buy some serious carpet shampoo at Target. I'm serious, I'm talking a full two bottles here!" After listening to the missing "Our home is so boring! We don't have any fun toys" all day I totally called my better-half on it.

"You have serious carpet envy!"

Jon laughed. He then proceeded to say "But their carpet was a full two shades lighter than ours. It was so clean! AND they have two boys! We can't even keep ours neat with One!"

Ah! I felt bad for a few moments. "We have a dog," I said. "The dog is the one who tracks in all of the dirt. Our kids and their kids kick their shoes off at the door. I'm sure, if our friends had our dog they couldn't keep their carpets nearly that clean."

Throwing our dog under the bus. Wishing that we had more fresh fruit and less student loans. That would be uncharitable me. I'll be doing some serious penance with my scapular today.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Women of Prayer

After 11 months, I finally made it to my first Women of Prayer meeting. (Once a month my parish holds a special meeting for all women after Saturday Mass.) In our parish hall there were light refreshments (so necessary after fasting from breakfast), a sign-in sheet, name tags an a huge think "book" of prayer requests.

The book is three pages single spaced, doubled columned and covers everything: sickness, employment, conversion of heart, prayers for single people. Everything any women in our parish wishes this group to pray for is listed out on this sheet. Because we're in Maryland, there is a specific section on Lyme Disease. Because this is my parish under "Prayer for the Family" there is this notation "P. Vijayakumar cure from witchcraft". (Is that a prayer for Mr Vijayakumar to refrain from practicing witchcraft or a prayer for his recovery from witchcraft? We'll let Our Lady sort it out, but this is one prayer request I would have never have heard if I had stayed in Madison, Wisconsin).

The book contained a wonderful prayer for finding employment. That's a prayer request I have for my 28 year old sister who is searching for her first career job and my 60 year old Mom who is searching for her encore career job.

God, our Father, I turn to you seeking your divine help and guidance as I look for suitable employment. I need you wisdom to guide my footsteps along the right path, and to lead me to find the proper things to say and do in this quest. I wish to use the gifts and talents you have given me, but I need the opportunity to do so with gainful employment. Do not abandon me, dear Father, in this search, but rather grant me this favor I ask so that I may return to you with praise and thanksgiving for your gracious assistance. Grant this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Anyone have any prayer requests for me to add to the book?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

For F.B.

Sleep my child and peace attend thee
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours and creeping,
Hill and vale in slumber sleeping
I, My loving vigil keeping
All through the night.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Last night I talked to my sister-in-law about the problems of not fitting into the world. Her 11 year old son made the State Finals for Baseball. They lost in one of those heart-breaking, can only happen to an elementary kid type of way. The kids took it hard. The adults took it harder. There was lots of yelling at officials, and scoreboards and other kid's batting averages. There was not much modeling of "losing with grace."

"It's so hard," my sister said. "You try to tell your kids to be a good loser and there are your friends undermining that lesson. Tom (her husband) and I have a different perspective because we are teachers. We're not better than our friends. You can't judge and be a snob. You can't say anything because these are your friends and you want your son to be accepted and to have friends . . ."

I'm not a teacher (at least not a paid one) and I don't have kids on sports teams. Yet I know the uncomfortable feelings of having your ethics rub uncomfortably against the crowd.

We're Catholics. We're supposed to have different ethics than the world. We're supposed to have different goals and different standards than most of our non-Catholic friends, even if they are "good people", good friends, good neighbors, good co-workers and good parents.

Sometimes that difference is minor, we might just cross ourselves and say a Hail Mary before a big soccer match while our friends will just say an Our Father, or no prayer at all. Sometimes it's major, like telling our kids that they can't jump on the bandwagon of tearing down the winning team.

But we are supposed to be different. We are supposed to be Yeast. The laity is the one charged with the task of transforming the world to more closely match life in the Kingdom of Heaven. That happens everywhere, all of the time, in ordinary space and in ordinary time.

I'm a shy person by nature. Rubbing the crowd the wrong way doesn't come easily to me.

That's why I go to Daily Mass. I'm not some together saint who loves to drag sleepy, squirmy babies to church at 6:30 AM. I'm a deeply flawed girl who falls down on the mothering job every single day. I could not get through the multiple car-seat buckles, and the potty-training accidents, and the trying to enforce reasonable dietary rules and TV time restrictions, without my faith. For me, the best way to insure that my hand stays firmly on the handrail of my Catholic faith is to start each day eating Jesus.

I realized talking to my sister, in those time of mental conversations I have so often with myself, that my shelter is my church. Each morning, I get to immerse myself in a totally loving, supportive environment. My babies elicit smiles there instead of "boy you have your hand full!" My priest blesses me, encourages me to do better and offers confession at 7:15 for times that I fail. My parishioners encourage me in holiness, offer sacramentals, and pray for me when I'm in trouble. Each morning, I get to start my day immersed in this comfortable bubble of safety.

That bubble of love in my church helps me deal with a sometimes hostile world. If the world starts to tear at my peace, I just slip back into the bubble again. I drink in the Eucharist, I do Adoration, I talk to a choir friend, I pray the rosary, I read Scripture and I hang out on a Catholic website. I can do one of those things or many of those things. I carry my "safety" bubble with me at all times.

I don't have to worry that the world is not always kind or righteous or a good model for my kids. My kids and I have a safe home, our Mother Church. Our home keeps us safe. Our home makes us strong. Our home helps us carry out our job to be the 'leaven' in the world.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Royal Priesthood

Three weeks ago, the exulted status of our royal priesthood hit my soul during a funeral. The fragile embroidery on the hem of our Deacon’s robe clashed with his firm stride and heavy, purposeful swings of the brass incense burner. “Deacon Ken is here to serve at Mass,” my mind registered. Deacon Ken, a busy lawyer during the workweek, is here on a Tuesday morning because funerals come first.

We were gathered in the parish church to bury a banker. A loved and respected banker, but not a rich one. A banker who served his church by leading a poor parish out of bankruptcy. A banker who had three kids and couldn’t afford to buy his own house until he turned 60 because he paid for their Catholic schooling. A banker who led our parish prayers of the faithful for several weeks after he suffered a fall in his house, became severely paralyzed and eventually died from his wounds.

Washington D.C. is a town that knows funerals. We house massive Funerals of State for deceased Presidents. We hold 21 gun salutes in Arlington Cemetery for fallen soldiers. We give columns of copy in the Washington Post for obituaries of the rich and famous.

My friend’s husband was not rich or famous. Yet he was royal. His funeral reflected the awesome beauty of our faith in its full majesty.

As Christians, we believe that death is not the end. As Catholic we celebrate the “pause button” on life’s story in a Mass. We have visiting hours in a local funeral home. But we don’t celebrate the funeral in that space. We don’t scatter ashes in the wind. We come together in prayer with incense, and Scripture and purified hearts. We pray for the dead. We share a broken Body with ourselves and the world.

At the end, there is a procession, a procession so long that it needed a police escort which waved us through stoplights and non-turn lanes.

“Why do we get to go through red lights?” my three year old asked his Dad.

“Because we are in a royal procession today,” my husband answered. “Sort of like a funeral parade."

"We are in a funeral parade," I think. I imagine buttoning up my son's blue oxfords like Di and Ferge. My kids have to squirm in uncomfortable dress shoes during the day for funerals, and weddings, and important affairs of State. Only this State has dominions which can't be traced on any world map.
Last week, my husband got a call from his sister. His Dad lay in a medi-vac helicopter miles above the Adirondack Mountains. Dad’s doctors at the local hospital knew that he sick, they knew he had a seizure so violent it took seven men to strap him onto a hospital gurney. Nobody knew what caused Dad's seizure. Was it a sign of a heart attack or a stroke? Was Dad going to live or die? Dad had to be flown to a larger hospital in Vermont for more tests.

My husband sat hundreds and hundreds of miles away. Yet he did not feel helpless. We sent up hundreds of prayers for his Dad. We called many faithful Catholics to ask for prayers and we emailed hundreds more. We lit our Blessed Candles and took out our rosaries. We prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the rosary and a prayer to Our Lady of Divine Grace.

We prayed for Dad to live. But we mostly prayed for Dad to come back to the church. That was our biggest fear. That this teddy bear of a guy, born on St. Nicholas Day, would die voluntarily exiled from the Catholic Church.

Then my husband, did this action, that only royal members of the priesthood can do. My husband call the hospital where Dad was set to land and asked to speak to the priest on duty. Almost immediately, a desk clerk transferred Jon to Father Finealus. “My father is in a medical helicopter headed to Fletcher-Allen hospital right now. I’d like him to receive the sacrament of the sick as soon as he lands. I’m most concerned that he’s been out of the church for almost 30 years. Can you make sure he receives confession and is taken care of there, please.”

Within moments, my husband hung up the phone feeling peaceful and relieved. “Father actually thanked me,” Jon said. “He thanked me so much for calling him. He was so grateful to bring another soul back to the church.”

My husband and I sat in awesome wonder of our faith. Here we were hundreds of miles away for a sick man. Yet here was a faithful priest, happy to help Shepard our beloved Dad home.

Father strove into the ICU soon after our phone call. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law watched him enter the restricted area. Dad hadn’t stabilized enough to be permitted to see Mom yet. However, the nurses waived the priest right through. My father-in-laws first contact with his family came when a priest said “I’ve been sent here by your son.”

I didn’t grow up as a Catholic. Due to an inter-family squabble that happened 350 years ago, I spent the first 28 years of my life turning down invitations to join the universal church. Who needed those pesky “extra” sacraments of the sick, confession, and marriage? I was fine reading my Bible and hanging out on Sunday's with like minded "independent thinking" friends.

As a result, my jaw dropped when my husband was able to personally contact a priest at 7 PM on a Wednesday night. A priest who was OVERJOYED to visit his sick father in the hospital.

“Honey, do you realize what a gift that it?” I said. “If my Dad got sick, there is no one to call at 7 PM. Even if I could somehow find a Methodist church in the area, I’d get an answering machine on at 7 PM. There’s no 24 hour emergency number. Even if I did talk to a kind-hearted secretary, the best she could do is send someone over in a few days to say a joint prayer with my Dad. It's more a corporal act of mercy than a sacrament. Heck, even we can visit the sick.”

My Catholic Father-in-Law got the royal treatment. He got confessed and pardoned. He got the blessed fragrant oil. He got the prayers that united his current sufferings with that of Our Blessed Savior on the Cross.

As Catholics, we rarely get to glimpse into our immense stash of “riches” in heaven. Our lives are supposed to be hidden within the ordinariness of daily life. Sometimes those clay pots crack and reveal the treasure within. Then, even in the midst of suffering and fear, we realize how truly Blessed we are to reside within the safety of our Mother Church.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Reducing Your Eco Footprint

Hanging out for an unexpected weekend in Vermont reignited my green streak. I went to college in a "crunchy" area. My husband used to be vegan. I used cloth diapers with baby number one and banned all sweets. By baby number three, we've greatly slipped off this lifestyle. A cloth diaper has ne'r touched her bum and the mere crinkle of a smartee wrapper in church on Sunday made the wee lass scramble for candy.

I've gone all over the grocery budget debate. This summer I started shopping at Aldis & Bottom Dollar. I loved practicing my Spanish while waiting in line at these stores, I loved the friendly sense of humble community. (So different from what are you doing squeezing three kids behind me in my aisle I feel at my closer Safeway store). Yet I hated the food. It was cheap, but it was tasteless. It was impossible to buy natural peanut butter there. The organic milk I bought for cheap turned sour in my fridge. Jon and I had this huge debate about the problems of Bottom Dollar & the poor. The poor are the most stressed people who need the best diet. Yet here we are filling their shopping carts with rotten oranges, over-processed meat and hunks of cheese devoid of real milk.

After months of food dieting, I've found there are no easy answers. I cook all three meals a day, seven days a week. There are no quick measures of cutting out fast food, brown-bagging lunches or skipping the shrimp for Sunday dinner. If we go with the "cheap" food, it's mostly pre-packaged corn-syrup junk. We can do that for a two week stint if the money is super duper tight. Everyone feels the pinch, however. Everyone is cranky, and gains weight from over-snacking on cheap junk treats.

What's a city girl to do?

Vermont gave me an unexpected answer. I'm encouraged to go organic. As a Catholic, I'm supposed to avoid sin. The sins of the current agriculture business is pretty huge, everything from pesticides, to collapsed honey bees, to underpaid migrant farm labor, to foam containers landing in a landfill. It's hard, so hard for me to plunk down $4.00 for a pound of beef stew when I know Safeway usually has a special where ground pork is $2.50 a pound. Yet I can do it if I know that the cow was healthy, treated humanely. I can do it if I know that the farmer wasn't ripped off or sold his soul to mistreat a Mexican farm worker. I can do it if I know that by eating meat only 3 nights a week instead of 6, is better for my children.

I don't know how this fits into the food budget exactly. Currently, we spend about $130 dollars in groceries to feed a family of 5 for a week. Shopping at Whole Foods isn't a fiscal option, right now. Yet I'm going to do a small part and trust the Lord to make up the rest.

The advantage of being a City Girl, is that while having a home vegetable garden isn't an option, low-cost home delivery of organic food is an option. I found a local dairy which can deliver milk and eggs at below grocery store cost for a weekly delivery charge of only $3.50. (Meat can also be added but it's more expensive that at the store).

I also found an organic produce farmer who can deliver produce to our door. It seems expensive at $45 dollars a week. I'm telling myself that right now I'm skipping all fruit except apples, bananas, carrots and brocolli because the produce seems like such a "bad value" in my tiny grocery budget. This move can't be good for our health.

My hope is that if I can get the whole organic bill under $80, and that covers all our milk, egg, meat, fruit and veggies-- that's most of our needs. I can always go to the store to buy some extra rice, twice a month. Less trips to the store, never going in with distracting young kids, that's got to be some sort of "savings" right? Even it it's just saving Mama's mind?

Here are the two links that I'm using this week.

Has anyone else found that "going green" actually helped save them money on the grocery bill.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Home Again

Whew! Home Again. Many thanks for the prayers for Jon's Dad and his entire family. My father-in-law is back at home. Hopefully, he will have no lingering effects from his 4 day stint in the I.C.U.

Even more incredible, Jon's Dad is back home in the Catholic Church! A priest came to the ICU with the sacrament of the sick. The next day, my modest prayer to Our Lady was for Jon to say one "Our Father" with his dad. Instead, Mary sent us a priest. Jon's family got to receive communion together in the I.C.U. for the first time in Jon's memory.

We were just surrounded by signal graces the whole trip. We got much actual grace for the 14 hour car trip home yesterday. I promise to write more details soon. As for now, the massive laundry pile awaits.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Urgent Prayer Request

I'm not sure if anyone is still reading my non-updated blog, but if you do stop by, please say a prayer for my father-in-law, Bob Benjamin. Jon's beloved Dad is being airlifted as I post this to a hospital in Burlington, Vermont after he suffered a severe seizure. We don't know yet if it was caused by a stroke or by a heart attack. (Jon's Dad is 72 & had an ER Trip earlier this week for congestive heart failure.)

My father-in-law, who has been so loving to me, all of his grandchildren, and a devoted Dad to my husband, was born on Christmas Day. He has a twin brother. He's also been out of the Catholic Church for over 30 years.

Please take a moment to pray a divine mercy chaplet with the specific intention that he receives Divine Mercy while he is near death. (As Catholics, we have a special concern for the soul of the dying, even more than our intense desire for healing in the physical body) Here's the link, which you'll have to copy yourself. Sorry for making you do a little extra work. I'm feeling a little to rattled to look up the link code.

So far, my husband is calm and collected. He is a rock! I'm so, so thankful that as Catholics we are "always prepared" as the Boy Scouts like to say. Within a 1/2 an hour we had made multiple prayer calls, had our Blessed Candle burning, said 2 divine Mercy chaplets and started arrangements for the sacrament of the sick in a hospital nine hours away. (Look how much we needed the Eucharist today. Get to Daily Mass if you are at able to make the journey with your family!)

Please say a special Hail Mary for my mother-in-law, Lois, and Jon's two sisters, Tami and Keli.

Thank you!

(Hat tip to Conversion Diary Jennifer F, who knows that I love her even if I can't link to her blog right now!)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happy July 4th

Reason to love the Catholic Church # 7,044

Not only is my favorite, favorite patriotic hymn in the Catholic hymnal --(I fell in love with this hymn when I sang it in the Alps at age 15 on a German/USA youth exchange program) BUT my priest happily explained today that "This is My Song" comes from a larger piece called "Finlandia", a national celebration of Finlad against Russian occupation in 1899. Wisdom and Music Theory all rolled into one. Thank you Father Brennan!

This is my song, O God of all the nations
A song of peace for lands afar and mine
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are every where as blue as mine
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations
A song of peace for their land and for mine

This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth's kingdoms;
Thy kingdom come; on earth thy will be done.
Let CFhrist be lifted up till all shall serve him,
And hearts united learn to live as one.
O hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations
Myself I give to thee; let thy will be done.

Check out the full symphony "Finlandia" on You Tube